'African oil sheik' goes on SA spending spree

By Karen Breytenbach and Beauregard Tromp

Most of Equatorial Guinea's 500 000 citizens live on less than a dollar a day, but the playboy son of the country's president has been spending millions in Cape Town on luxury cars, houses, hotel accommodation and entertainment.

Teodorin Nguema Obiang, 34, whose father Teodoro is president of the oil-rich yet underdeveloped Equatorial Guinea, has since the weekend spent close to R10-million on three luxury cars and millions on other luxuries, according to impeccable sources.

He has been called "the closest thing there is to an African oil sheik".

Teodorin is minister of forestry, environment and housing in his father's government and also owns a stake in a logging company, which reportedly has a multimillion-rand turnover.

A graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, he is also the owner of the only government-approved private radio station in Equatorial Guinea, Radio Asonga. He runs Television Asonga, owned by his father, and owns the hip-hop record label TNO (for Teodorin Nguema Obiang) Records.

It is understood that while in Cape Town, Teodorin spent about R7-million on two Bentleys - one a black 2004 Bentley Arnage T, the other a cream 2005 Bentley Mulliner - at MG Rover Cape Town, as well as R3,2-million on a white 2005 six-litre Lamborghini at Bloomsbury in Buitengracht Street.

The cars were parked on Monday outside the Mount Nelson Hotel, where staff said the vehicles were bought at the weekend by "an African prince". All three cars had temporary CA number plates.

MG Rover management declined to provide exact prices "because he (Teodorin) is a very important client". But according to Bentley South Africa, a 2005 model Bentley Arnage T costs R4,3-million.

Bloomsbury management declined to confirm whether Teodorin bought the sports car, "because we have to protect the privacy of our clients". They were prepared to reveal that a white 2005 model six-litre Lamborghini was sold two days earlier for R3,2-million.

Teodorin's architects are also reliably understood to be starting shortly with multimillion-rand renovations to his properties - 35 Klaassens Road, Bishopscourt, which he bought in March last year for a reported R26-million, and 76 Fourth Beach, Clifton, bought for R23,5-million, according to another source.

On Tuesday Teodorin left the Mount Nelson with a large entourage of security guards, personal assistants and a chauffeur after spending R15 000 on French champagne at the hotel's Planet Bar on Friday night, according to a hotel staff member.

From there he drove to the airport, surrounded by bodyguards.

The luxury suite in which he stayed costs R8 030 a night.

Asked to comment, an official at the Equatorial Guinea embassy in Pretoria said Teodorin's visit was in his private capacity.

"What do you want with him? His private business is not for you to put in the newspaper," she said, and hung up.

Mount Nelson management promised to pass on an invitation to Teodorin for an interview with The Star's sister newspaper, the Cape Times, although stressing that they needed to protect his privacy. Teodorin has not responded.

The Star tried to contact Equatorial Guinea's department of foreign affairs in Malabo, the capital, but a Telkom international operator said all phone connections with Equatorial Guinea had been "down for months".

Teodorin is also believed to have homes in Paris, London and Los Angeles, where he has fleets of Bentleys and Lamborghinis. He is often seen at glitzy parties in Rio de Janeiro, Los Angeles, London and Paris.

Equatorial Guinea, a former Spanish colony, for years relied almost exclusively on agriculture and logging for its income.

When the country's fortunes changed with the discovery of oil in 1996, the developed world looked past blatant human rights abuses in exchange for oil concessions.

But organisations like Amnesty International decried the lack of upliftment which still sees much of the country stuck in squalor.

The people of Equatorial Guinea have to survive on a dollar a day, yet the president has more than $600-million frozen at Riggs Bank in Washington after an FBI investigation into "improprieties".

Teodorin is the designated successor to his ailing father, who is suffering from prostate cancer. This is much to the chagrin of his uncles and extended family, who occupy key positions in the government. His brother Gabriel negotiates the multibillion-rand oil deals.

Despite the country's democratic status, Teodorin has more than once asked his father to step down to allow him to succeed.

Shortly after the failed coup led by South African mercenary Nick du Toit in March last year, Teodorin wanted the head of his uncle, Armengol, who had had business dealings with Du Toit.

During the ensuing argument Teodorin is said to have fired off a shot to prove his point.

According to Stellenbosch African politics professor Willie Breytenbach, Equatorial Guinea has become Africa's fastest growing economy over the years, with a 40 percent growth rate in 2003, beating even China and South Korea, albeit from a low base, due to investment by large multinational oil companies.

The CIA's website says that "despite the country's windfall from oil production resulting in a massive increase in government revenue in recent years, there have been few improvements in the country's living standards".

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